Overview of syntax in YAML

learn the basic syntax of `YAML`. You will also learn about adding comments in YAML and creating a single YAML file or stream with multiple documents.

In this chapter, you will learn the basic syntax of YAML.

YAML basics

YAML is used to store lists or sequences of elements and key-value pairs or mappings.

  • List (also known as Sequence) is an ordered collection of items. A sequence is represented using square brackets ([]). Each item within the sequence is separated with a new line followed by comma (, ) character. An item can be of any type like strings, numbers or maps etc.

  • Key value pairs (also known as Mapping) is an unordered collection of key/value pairs. But, the keys are not unique because they are allowed to have duplicate values. Each element within a mapping is separated with new line followed by colon(:) character.

Key value pairs

A key-value pair is a data structure consisting of a key and a value. The key is used to identify the value, and the value can be any type of data.

%0 node_0 Key node_0_1 Value node_0->node_0_1
A key value pair

Key-value pairs are represented using the following syntax:

<key>: <value> 

where <key> represents name and <value> represents data separated by : (the space is mandatory).

Key-value pair example:

key: value

The following is the graphical representation of the key value pair:



A list is a simple data structure consisting of zero or more ordered items. In other words, a list is an ordered collection of data.

%0 node_1 element 1 node_2 element 2 node_3 element 3
visualization of list or sequence

A list is represented by preceding its items with - (hyphen).


  - <element 1>
  - <element 2> 
  - ...
  - <element n>

The following is the graphical representation of the key value pair:


Simple, yet powerful

It’s simple syntax does not limit the language capabilities of YAML. The language is rich enough to represent almost any conceivable data structure or object inside a running computer program as a readable plain text file.

Below are some of the key features of YAML that make it an excellent option for data formatting.

Case Sensitivity

YAML is case sensitive, so the key “DATA” would different from “data”.

Each of the items in the list below will be treated as a unique list item and a unique key/value pair as the string contains different cases of alphabets.

- data
- key: data

The following is the graphical representation of the sample YAML data in the code example above:


YAML structures are determined by spaces and indentations similar to that of the Python programming language. Spaces are the only way to achieve indentation. Tabs are NOT allowed in YAML.

Below is a list of learning objectives of this course.

%0 node_1610860084692 Parsers and Emitters node_1610860062735 Tools Leveraging YAML node_1610860099037 Advance Features node_3 Complex Data Types node_2 Data Types node_1 Basic Syntax node_1610860102012 What is YAML
List of Course Learning Objectives

The code below represents the above list in the form of YAML.

Learning Objectives:
- What is YAML?
- Basic Syntax
- Data Types
- Complex Data Types
- Advance Features
- Tools Leveraging YAML
- Parsers and Emitters

The following is the graphical representation of the YAML data representing learning objectives for this course:


In a C-based programming language, this would have been represented programmatically as the code snippet below:

LearningObjectives[0] = "What is YAML?"
LearningObjectives[1] = "Basic Syntax"
LearningObjectives[2] = "Data Types"
LearningObjectives[3] = "Complex Data Types"
LearningObjectives[4] = "Advance Features"
LearningObjectives[5] = "Tools Leveraging YAML"
LearningObjectives[6] = "Parsers and Emitters"

It should now be clear to you from the example above that YAML has a very simple data format.

Tip: While editing a YAML file, use a text editor to double check that there are no tabs in place of spacings. This can be done by enabling the display of whitespace characters.

Multi-Document support in YAML

To define a YAML file we mostly use either .yml or .yaml extensions, for e.g., config.yml. However, some tools may use a different extension to specify the purpose of the file.

Check the code snippet below to learn how to create multiple documents within a single file or stream.

 - XML
 - CSV
 - Unicode
 - UTF8

Below is the graphical representation of this format.

  • YAML stream is a collection of zero or more documents.
  • An empty stream contains no documents.
  • A single document may or may not be marked with (---).
  • You can add multiple documents to a single YAML file.
  • Different documents are separated using three dashes (---).
  • Documents could end with (...).
  • Three dots (...) is used to mark the end of a document without starting a new one.

Block style

A document in block style uses spaces for structuring the document. It is much easier to read, but it is less compact.


  - red
  - yellow
  - blue

Below is the graphical representation of the data:


Flow style

YAML has an alternate syntax called flow style, it allows sequences and mappings to be written inline without having to rely on indentation, using a pair of square brackets [] and curly brackets {} respectively.

Flow style is an extension of JSON. It is less easy to read; however, it provides more compactness.


color: [red, blue]


 - { name: 'James', age: 35 } 


Any text after # not enclosed in ''(quotes) or "" (double quotes) is considered a comment. It marks the beginning of a comment, and any text until the end of the line is completely ignored. You use this to write notes on the file or temporarily disable some section of the file.

Below are some examples of the comments


## A single line comment

A comment can begin anywhere in the line.


## document starts below
key: "value" # mapping
   # A list of two items
  - "item 1" # first value
  - "item 2" # second value
## end of document

Tip: YAML does not support block or multi-line comments.

In order to create a multi-line comment, you need to suffix each line with a # character.


## This is a multi-line
## comment in YAML. There is
## no alternate way of creating
## block comments.

Below is another example of YAML comments:

#   __     __        __  __  _      
#   \ \   / / /\    |  \/  || |     
#    \ \_/ / /  \   | \  / || |     
#     \   / / /\ \  | |\/| || |     
#      | | / ____ \ | |  | || |____ 
#      |_|/_/    \_\|_|  |_||______|  


  • Items of a list in YAML are represented by preceding it with - (hyphen).
  • Key value pairs in YAML are represented as <key>:<value>.
  • YAML is case sensitive.
  • YAML uses spaces and indentations to define document structure.
  • To define a YAML file we use either .yml or .yaml as file extension.
  • Different documents in YAML can be separated using three dashes (---).
  • You use three dots (...) to mark the end of a document without starting a new one.
  • A document in block style uses spaces to structure the document.
  • Flow style makes YAML an extension of JSON. Flow style is a little less human-readable than block style, however it provides more compactness to the document.
  • Any text after # not enclosed in ''(quotes) or "" (double quotes) is considered a comment.
  • YAML does not support block or multi-line comments.

Quiz on Basic YAML Syntax


YAML does not support comments.





Question 1 of 70 attempted